BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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The following is an update on a previous posting. None is based on my own research; I have just taken what has been posted by others, incorporated some previously-published information, made a few deductions and raised some questions. The more speculative and questioning parts are in italics.

This is not a definitive listing and should not be taken as such.

Comments, corrections and similar will be most welcome. I shall not be offended if you find typos and/or schoolboy 'howlers'. This is not my specialist subject.

ADDITION - I've had a bit of difficulty with layout but I think this will be right.

AM259 / G-AGCD
c/n 2 = ex 40-697

1941
1941-02-00 = used for handling and performance parameter trials at San Diego
1941-02-15 = San Diego > La Guardia
1941-02-23 = La Guardia > St Hubert, where TOC the same day
1941-03-05 = St Hubert > Gander
1941-03-05/13 = held at Gander by bad weather
1941-03-13 = dep Gander
1941-03-14 = arr Squires Gate [first Liberator to reach UK, crewed by Wg Cdr Waghorn and Flt Lt Summers]
1941-03-?? = allocated to MoEW
1941-03-26 = DGRD Hatfield
1941-04-01 = DGRD Heston
1941-04-08 = DGRD Handley Page
1941-04-19 = reg'd G-AGCD to BOAC (CoR 9312)
1941-04-?? = to Northolt for civil conversion
1941-04-28 = conversion completed
1941-05-04/05 = A&AEE handling trials at Boscombe Down by Capt J H Orrell
1941-05-06/13 = dispersed to Colerne/Charmy Down
1941-05-15 = CoA (6884) issued
1941-05/06-00 = MoEW use abandoned due to airfield limitations in Sweden
1941-07-10/11 = A Liberator left for New York via Montreal [individual aircraft not specified]
1941-10-07/08 = Prestwick > Gander
1941-10-?? = did it fly on to Montreal? And when did it return to Prestwick?

1942
1942-04-18 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-04-?? = Gander > Montreal
1942-04-24 = Montreal > Prestwick
1942-04-25 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-04-?? = did it fly to Montreal and back to Gander?
1942-05-01 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-05-02/03 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-05-?? = did it fly on to Montreal and when did it return to Prestwick?
1942-05-10/11 = Prestwick > Montreal
1942-05-?? = Montreal > Gander
1942-05-16 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-05-18/19 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-05-?? = did it fly on to Montreal and when did it return to the UK?
1942-05-23/24 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-05-25 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-05/06-?? = did it fly on to Montreal and back
1942-06-04/05 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-06-08/09 = Prestwick > Montreal
1942-06-?? = Montreal > Gander
1942-06-13/14 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-06-?? = Prestwick > Gander and/or Montreal
1942-06-22/23 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-06-?? = Prestwick > Gander and/or Montreal
1942-06-29/30 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-07-01/02 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-07-03 = did it fly on to Montreal and back to Gander?
1942-07-04/05 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-07-06/07 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-07-?? = did it fly on to Montreal and back to Gander?
? 1942-07-14 = made special UK > Cairo flight, then ret'd to RFS
? 1942-07-14 = Gander > Prestwick
? 1942-07-24 = second flight to Cairo
1942-08-21 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-08-?? = did it fly on to Montreal and back to Gander?
1942-08-24 = reg'n cancelled
1942-08-25/26 = Gander > Prestwick
1942-??-?? = when did it fly to Montreal [possibly via Gander]?
1942-09-19/20 = Montreal > Prestwick
1942-10-21/22 = Prestwick > Moscow [1st flight there; 13:09 flying hours]
1942-10-29 = Moscow > Prestwick
1942-11-22/23 = Prestwick > Moscow [2nd flight to Moscow]
1942-11-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick
1942-12-05 = Prestwick > Gander
1942-12-?? = did it fly on to Montreal and back to Gander?
1942-12-18 = Gander > Prestwick

1943
1943-01-04/05 = Prestwick > Moscow [presumed from the Peter Moss article]
1943-01-10/11 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-01-12/13 = Prestwick > Moscow [date presumed from the following report]
1943-01-14 = slightly damaged taking off at Moscow [did it return to Prestwick anyway? Or at a later date?]
1943-01-24/25 = Prestwick > Moscow [4th Moscow service]
1943-01-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-02-17/18 = Prestwick > Moscow [5th Moscow service]
1943-02-21/22 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-03-?? = Prestwick >.Moscow? [presumed from the Peter Moss article]
1943-03-04 = Moscow > Prestwick? [presumed from the Peter Moss article]
1943-04-07 = reverted to AM259
1943-05-15 = damaged at Prestwick
1943-06-10 = regular service to Moscow started with G-AGHG [Peter Moss article] but see Jan '44 below
1943-06-23 = ret'd to BOAC 23.6.43 [reg'n restored on unknown date]
--------------- = again used on Russian and special services as G-AGCD

1944
1944-01-03/11 = made special UK > Cairo return flight
1944-01-29/30 = Prestwick > Moscow [northern route]
1944-02-09 = Moscow > Cairo [southern route because of weather]
1944-02-10 = Cairo > Gibraltar [as above]
1944-02-10/11 = Gibraltar > Lyneham ?[as above]
1944-07-06 = ret'd to RAF as AM259 for 45 Gp Comm Sqn
1944-09-08 = 231 Sqn
1944-12-18 = Prestwick > Lagens

1945
1945-11-07 = SOC at Dorval

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Just to follow up a question that arose in earlier postings, Nils Mathisrud's book "The Stockholm Run" shows no BOAC Liberator I as having been involved on that service.

He does list three Liberator IIIs, however, namely G-AGFO [7 trips in February and March 1944], G-AGFR [2 trips in October 1943] and G-AGFS [1 trip in October 1943], the last-named being the first BOAC Liberator to land at Bromma. He notes that their lower surfaces were painted black, at BOAC's request, to 'match' the undersurfaces of the Dakotas and Mosquitos used on the Stockholm Run in that period. He adds that this colour scheme was used by the Liberators on the Cairo service, too.

Just over 6 months before BOAC's Liberator, the first American Air Transport Service Liberator landed at Bromma. It was devoid of any identification markings but used the [fictitious] call sign G-AFYO, which markings were hastily applied at Bromma, in large black letters along the fuselage, but without any outlining. It retained these throughout that first visit to Sweden but, when it flew back to Leuchars, they were overpainted and the American registration {NC 38942] applied to the tail fins. it made a further 26 trips to Stockholm.

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Ian:

Rest of the Peter Berry records for AM259, inter-leafed with your entries in bold with different date format. Again, some return legs are apparently missing:

1943
1943-01-04/05 = Prestwick > Moscow [presumed from the Peter Moss article]
1943-01-10/11 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-01-12/13 = Prestwick > Moscow [date presumed from the following report]
1943-01-14 = slightly damaged taking off at Moscow [did it return to Prestwick anyway? Or at a later date?]
1943-01-24/25 = Prestwick > Moscow [4th Moscow service]
1943-01-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-02-17/18 = Prestwick > Moscow [5th Moscow service]
1943-02-21/22 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-03-?? = Prestwick >.Moscow? [presumed from the Peter Moss article]
1943-03-04 = Moscow > Prestwick? [presumed from the Peter Moss article]
1943-04-07 = reverted to AM259
April 25 = Dorval-Prestwick
1943-05-15 = damaged at Prestwick
1943-06-10 = regular service to Moscow started with G-AGHG [Peter Moss article] but see Jan '44 below
1943-06-23 = ret'd to BOAC 23.6.43 [reg'n restored on unknown date]
--------------- = again used on Russian and special services as G-AGCD

1944
1944-01-03/11 = made special UK > Cairo return flight
1944-01-29/30 = Prestwick > Moscow [northern route]
1944-02-09 = Moscow > Cairo [southern route because of weather]
1944-02-10 = Cairo > Gibraltar [as above]
1944-02-10/11 = Gibraltar > Lyneham ?[as above]
April 12 = Prestwick-Reykjavik
May 3 = Gander-UK
May 8 = UK-Reykjavik
May 16 = UK-Reykjavik
May 27 = Gander-UK
May 29 = UK-Gander
June 10 = Gander-UK
June 13 = UK-Dorval
June 18 = Goose-UK
June 19 = UK-Goose
1944-07-06 = ret'd to RAF as AM259 for 45 Gp Comm Sqn
1944-09-08 = 231 Sqn
1944-12-18 = Prestwick > Lagens – DELETE, TRANSCRIPTION ERROR
December 20 = Prestwick-Lagens
December 25 = Dorval-Prestwick
December 27 = Prestwick-Lagens - very close to next
December 28 = Prestwick-Lagens - very close to previous

Robert

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I was aware of Peter Berry's records of the transatlantic flying-boat ops in WWII (available from the Fynes flying-boat museum) but where are the landplane records archived...are they online anywhere?

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I believe Air-Britain became the custodian of Peter's research.

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Thank you, Robert, for the additional information, which is very welcome. I have a number of other [non-aviation] matters to which I have to attend over the coming weeks and days, so my updating will not be done straightaway, I'm afraid. I have had a few other thoughts about getting additional information but that, too, will have to wait a while. Nevertheless, i will try to keep an eye on this thread as much as I can.

As I said before, this is not at all my specialist subject but it seems to me that, if it is possible to build up a picture of the working life of one of the Liberators involved in the RFS, then it ought to be possible to construct a picture of the working lives of the others. There seems to be a fair amount of information out there but spread across different locations. It is just a question of bringing these various strands together.

For example, I have referred to the Nils Mathisrud book on 'The Stockholm Run'. One of his sources of information was the Bromma logs, giving details of aircraft movements at that airport in WWII. As I recall, these were held in Sweden's national archive. Does anyone know if similar information about movements at Dorval, Gander and elsewhere in Canada is held in the their national archive - if so, in Ottawa, I guess.

I am not a member of Air Britain (I was a member several decades back). Assuming Air Britain does have Peter Berry's research, does anyone know where it is kept, who would have access to it and what the arrangements to view it might be?

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Ian:

There is a document called the Gander Watch Log which lists occupants on every flight passing through Gander but unfortunately the period December 1941 to May 1943 is missing.

And there is the Record of External Flights covering May 1943 to Dec 1945.

I've not seen any of the latter - the originals of which are held at the provincial archives of Newfoundland and Labrador - but have seen extracts from the Watch Log which I may have access to if we have specific requests.

Robert

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Robert,

Thanks once again. I'll have to be quick.

It's good to know that other contemporary documents exist.

Does the Gander Watch List just give details of 'occupants' (names of crew and passengers presumably) or does it also include details of the aircraft that made the flights on which the 'occupants' travelled?

Ian

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21 years 1 month

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Ian:

The pages I have seen for April and May 1941 include:

date, call sign, type and serial, flight crew names and ranks, passenger names, aircraft's unit or station, time off departure point, arrival time at Gander, destination, time of departure for destination, time of arrival at destination, flight time, signals action taken on arrival or non-arrival and remarks, all hand-written.

Doesn't get much better than that!

Robert

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Robert,

That sounds like a wonderful resource. Couldn't really be bettered in this context, as you say. Such a pity that so many months are missing.

Ian

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As far as I can establish, AM259 made 8 return flights to Moscow in late 1942 and the first part of 1943. These all appear to have been direct flights using the northern route, though there may have been occasional stopovers en route. These flights were as follows:-

1942-10-21/22 = Prestwick > Moscow [1st flight to Moscow]
1942-10-28/29 = Moscow > Prestwick
1942-11-22/23 = Prestwick > Moscow [2nd Moscow service]
1942-11-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick

1943-01-04/05 = Prestwick > Moscow [3rd Moscow service]
1943-01-10/11 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-01-24/25 = Prestwick > Moscow [4th Moscow service]
1943-01-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-02-17/18 = Prestwick > Moscow [5th Moscow service]
1943-02-21/22 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-03-03/04 = Prestwick >.Moscow [6th Moscow service]
1943-03-07/08 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-03-18/19 = Prestwick > Moscow [7th Moscow service]
1943-03-22/23 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-04-04/05 = Prestwick > Moscow [8th Moscow service]
1943-04-07/08 = Moscow > Prestwick

I've tried to present the above with the same layout as the previous listings,

Any comments, criticisms and/or corrections are always welcome. As I said before, I am involved in some other matters at present but i will try to catch any further postings.

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That agrees with what I've discovered, Ian. The only detail difference I've unearthed is that the return legs on 7th and 22nd March actually landed first at Stornoway. I presume they both went on to Prestwick later, but I can't presently confirm that. Both these return flights are described by the codeword 'Festoon', which I have not (yet) found attached to any other BOAC operation.

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Thanks, Adrian. I'll add those details later.

When you say 'both .. return flights', I assume you mean thetwo that stopped off in Stornoway. And, if these were the only ones given the 'Festoon' code, this suggests that the stopovers were pre-planned and not due to weather, fuel shortage or some technical issue. That sounds intriguing.

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Below I have merely added the two Stornoway stopovers identified by Adrian in Post # 256 [above].

1942-10-21/22 = Prestwick > Moscow [1st flight to Moscow]
1942-10-28/29 = Moscow > Prestwick
1942-11-22/23 = Prestwick > Moscow [2nd Moscow service]
1942-11-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick

1943-01-04/05 = Prestwick > Moscow [3rd Moscow service]
1943-01-10/11 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-01-24/25 = Prestwick > Moscow [4th Moscow service]
1943-01-27/28 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-02-17/18 = Prestwick > Moscow [5th Moscow service]
1943-02-21/22 = Moscow > Prestwick
1943-03-03/04 = Prestwick >.Moscow [6th Moscow service]
1943-03-07/08 = Moscow > Stornoway > Prestwick
1943-03-18/19 = Prestwick > Moscow [7th Moscow service]
1943-03-22/23 = Moscow > Stornoway > Prestwick
1943-04-04/05 = Prestwick > Moscow [8th Moscow service]
1943-04-07/08 = Moscow > Prestwick

For a while, the map I put up in the immediately preceding Post #258 could not be expanded, which meant that it was pretty pointless. That problem seems to have been corrected, so clicking on the image should reveal its detail now. I dare say that , somewhere in the archive, there will be documentation explaining why that particular route was taken.

In the summer, when the extended hours of daylight precluded using the northern route, they used the southern route. The aircraft flew via Cairo, with other stops en route in the Middle East, flying northwards over the U.S.S.R. to a place called Kuibyshev, where it turned to fly due [more or less] west to Moscow.

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This is further to Post # 259 [coincidentally].

It looks like AM259 / G-AGCD ceased to operate the Moscow service after that 8th trip and in May, transferred to the Cairo service. However, Robert reported that it suffered an accident at Prestwick on 15 May 1943 (see Post # 247). This suggests that any trip to Cairo would have been in the first half of the month.

Thereafter, there seems to be a blank period. perhaps the damage incurred in the accident was quite severe.

In October 1943, there was a big tripartite conference in Moscow. It was attended by the Foreign Ministers of the Russia, America and Britain. Below is a rather poor quality image of Eden's arrival in Moscow. That's him on the left. The central figure is Molotov, the Russian Foreign Secretary (or equivalent) and the one on the right is the Russian Ambassador. I'm not sure but I believe that AM259 / G-AGCD was one of the aircraft involved in flying the officials there. NOTE, 20 October 1943 is the newspaper's dateline but not necessarily the date of arrival

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AM259's incident at Prestwick on 15 May 43 does not seem to have been recorded in any log of major accidents. That's not necessarily saying it wasn't a significant prang, but it doesn't appear to have been. The reason for a long lay-off is more likely to have been shortage of spares. It was not unusual for a simple CofA renewal during wartime to last three or four months, with some being six or seven.BOAC Ensign G-ADSR landed with the undercarriage up at Lagos in September 1942 - she was not badly damaged, but repairs kept her out of service for over a year. Combine that sort of timescale with Consolidated's reluctance to support and provide spares for the LB.30s in the first place and it's easy to see how serviceability rates would have been rather low.

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Thanks, Adrian. That all sounds entirely logical to me - a 'small' accident, a wait for spares, getting the C of A renewal and so on - it would all take time. And, if AM259 was involved in transporting high-ranking officials to that major conference, then they would be extra careful about preparing it for the trip, too. I presume it would have stayed at Prestwick during this period.

From what i can gather, there were three aircraft involved in going to the Moscow meeting from Britain. Of course, it could have been three trips by the same aircraft but that seems a tad unlikely. I guess that they would have used Liberators and I suspect they would have left from Lyneham or Northolt. but not from Prestrwick. The passengers being important people, the closest airfield to London seems likely. Confirmation of this would be welcome. Maybe there is some newsreel footage of them leaving and/or returning or contemporary press coverage...

I'm really tied up for much of the rest of this week and this is likely to extend into next week, so I won't be able to do much digging or posting for a while. If you find any additional information,please post it it, as I'll try to look in on this site in the meantime..

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The Moscow conference lasted from 18 October 1943 into early November. I found this bit of newsreel footage quite quickly:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/moscow-conference-8

The American delegation arrived in a C-54 (232937) and, depending on the camera angles, there may a second one lurking in the background.

The British delegation arrived in a Liberator. Which one cannot be made out but it carried RAF roundels.

At the end, Eden arrives back at Paddington station. Does this suggest that the return, at least, was to Lyneham? Thoughts, anyone?

FINAL OFF-TOPIC COMMENT/QUESTION:

There were a number of conferences in WWII, on different dates and in different places. I have it in my head that Eden went to one of these [maybe more] in a York. Does anyone know more about this?

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The other question is the route taken. Though it was winter, my guess would be the summer (southern) route. Flying such people across enemy-held territory, which would be necessary if the the northern route were used, would be far too risky.

That, in turn, raises the question of an initial survey flight for the southern route. When was this carried out and using which aircraft?

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I've 'brightened' the shot of the arriving Liberator.

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